Arts & Culture

Follow the ropes around Tacoma’s Hilltop with new sidewalk mural

Artist Oliver Doriss creates a looping rope mural on the sidewalk of Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma, using a circular stencil and spray paint mounted on a shopping cart.
Artist Oliver Doriss creates a looping rope mural on the sidewalk of Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma, using a circular stencil and spray paint mounted on a shopping cart. Staff

If you saw a painted rope twisting along the sidewalk around the corner, what would you do? Follow it, of course. At least, that’s what Oliver Doriss and Rebecca Solverson are hoping you’ll do when you see “Know Your Ropes,” a piece of temporary sidewalk art coming to the Hilltop this week. Funded by a walkability grant from the Health Department, the sidewalk mural will wind around Hilltop streets, encouraging neighborhood exploration with guided walks and an interactive website.

The idea came from a conversation between Doriss, a glass artist and gallerist, and Solverson, public art specialist with city of Tacoma. They live on the Hilltop and wanted to see beautiful art and people walking around to enjoy it.

“I’ve had the concept of a walking trail for a while,” says Doriss. “I’ve just been waiting for a grant to make it happen.”

The result is a temporary graphic that Doriss, with some help, is laying down this week along Martin Luther King Jr. Way and neighboring streets. Thanks to his own invention of a circular stencil wheel mounted on a shopping cart, he’ll paint a trailing, winding rope that has various sailors’ knots (half-hitch, bowline) at spots around the Hilltop that show public art, history or an important neighborhood location. Those spots will serve as the starting points for a six-part summer walk series beginning Wednesday, and will also have a printed link to the Know Your Ropes website with audio and photos, for those who want to walk it themselves. The website will also serve as a permanent online walking tour of the Hilltop, long after the rope graphic has faded.

And Doriss thinks people will want to walk the rope.

“People follow lines,” he points out. “If there’s a trail that goes around the corner, at least you’ll follow it around to see where it goes.”

The walks are all on Wednesday evenings, guided by local experts such as Solverson on the Hilltop’s public art, community gardens, affordable housing and more. The series begins June 22 with a reception at Doriss’ Fulcrum Gallery.

While the goal is definitely more people walking the neighborhood, Doriss has another one.

“I just love something entertaining on the sidewalk,” he says. “Streets are all usually straight lines, pretty neat and sterile. A graphic design makes it more interesting. My goal is to do fun stuff.”

Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568, @rose_ponnekanti

Know Your Ropes walks

Community Launch walk: With reception afterward, 6 p.m. June 22 at Fulcrum Gallery, 1308 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma.

Gardens and Greens: 6 p.m. June 29 at Ferry Park, 1400 S. Sheridan Ave., Tacoma.

Business on the Hilltop: 6 p.m. July 13 at New Look Apartments, 1114 S. 11th St., Tacoma.

Next Generation: 6 p.m. July 27 at People’s Community Center, 1602 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma.

Walk with THA: 6 p.m. Aug. 17 at E.B. Wilson apartments, 1202 S. M St., Tacoma.

Murals and More: 6 p.m. Aug. 31 at People’s Park, 900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma.

Cost: Free.

Information: knowyourropes.com, facebook.com/knowyourropes.

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